Former LOTRO employee dishes out behind-the-scenes secrets

    
75

There’s always more to every story than is often told, which is why it’s fascinating to come across accounts like this one by former Turbine Systems QA employee, who contributed to a multi-page thread about the “warts and all” of working on Lord of the Rings Online for 2.5 years.

The ex-employee, Aylwen, posted pictures from the company as well. Among his posts include tales of rivalry with the DDO staff, PvMP development, industry politics, obfuscation over internal failings, Blizzard’s “ferociously competitive nature” toward other studios, how Infinite Crisis was “hemorrhaging money,” and how Turbine took a stab at both a Harry Potter MMO and a console version of LOTRO.

Aylwen said that both the Warner Bros. buyout and the free-to-play transition were “deals with the devil” that had to be made. “We were hurting bad after [Siege of Mirkwood] subs were declining hard — and F2P was inevitable,” he wrote. “In March or thereabouts in ’10 an email went out from [James] Crowley stating that LOTRO’s US subs were down to around 85k.”

“Bad news was usually couched in disingenuous terms designed to save company face,” he also posted. “Public appearances were a major thing with the company and we were very good at maintaining an image of continued success. Even within the industry I found that most considered LOTRO a major success and had no hint that we were in trouble.”

He said that he is not a disgruntled employee, but someone who has “a lot of affection” for the game and the studio. Aylwen is also proud of what the team had accomplished: “Turbine’s biggest asset was its crazy bold ambition: We had less than 200 people in reconverted warehouse space behind a car dealership putting out three MMOs.”

[Source: LOTRO Community forums; via: Ravalation]
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Gylnne
Guest
Gylnne

Feydakin mosselyn  “You can be happy, make a profit and keep the lights on making games, and yes, you can even make those huge blockbusters without needing to permeate your company with that greedy, slimy corporate culture.”

Yes so true

Observer98
Guest
Observer98

jenks44 
And the community predicted exactly that at the time.

ThompsonClaytonRadcliff
Guest
ThompsonClaytonRadcliff

melissamcdon Melissa, the launch was a long time ago but I seem to remember it going okay that day and the days after.  But ‘most stable’? LOTRO has been in decline from a quality standpoint for years.  The bugs, lag, crashes and performance issues have made it anything but stable.  When you get into the Best Ever discussions, criteria are important.  LOTRO’s first few years were great and it has provided some occasional bright spots since, but the 7+ years overall have had lot of decline.  I think it’s important to acknowledge the shortcomings we saw over time in spite of the joy it brought us to explore Middle Earth.  I tolerated them all myself up until the summer before Helm’s Deep.  The Hobbit movies, even if they had been as good as the LOTR trilogy, couldn’t make people come enjoy a game suffering from major performance issues and declining content.

Draugris
Guest
Draugris

It´s an interesting post and for me a rather sad one. To be honest reading all this tears me apart. LOTRO used to be my first MMO and playing it together with my kin on a RP server (Belegaer)  turned out to be one of the best times i ever had in a video game. I met so many nice people there (can you imagine playing a mmo nowadays and having a clean chat without all this lol rofl wtf noob l2p speech ?) ,  a few of them became RL friends. Shadows of Angmar was an intense experience for me and i always loved the way the devs catched the spirit of Middle Earth. If WB sometimes will decide to shut down the servers (and i believe after reading all this that it will be inevitable) , i will miss this game, a lot.

syberghost
Guest
syberghost

It probably cost in excess of twice that to just keep the lights on.

melissamcdon
Guest
melissamcdon

The thing that gets lost in this (to me) is that LOTRO has been one of the cleanest launches, most stable games, most detailed presentations, and honestly, it belongs on a very short list of Best MMOs Ever.
And that’s fairly remarkable given this view of it as a slowly sinking ship.  I still believe, and I say this with a straight face, that the crappy Hobbit movies damaged this video game.   There should have been a big influx of players, but I think in the long run it didn’t help much.

jefreahard
Guest
jefreahard

Feydakin I saw that, and I also had a chuckle at the commenter saying “yeah, we need more of this kind of transparency on Massively and other sites because nobody does it.”

Well, duh. 
Gaming is an insular industry, and the MMO niche even moreso, so no one who wants to keep working in it is going to be honest about how there are a bunch of incompetent people calling the shots, lol. I forget where it is in that monster thread, but the guy said he had no real attachment to games or the games industry, he was only working there because it was an opportunity to do something Tolkien-related. Those are the kind of (rare) people who give a journo something to write about or a forum something to talk about, as opposed to most of the game industry rank-and-file who grew up worshiping video games and are so happy to be in the club that they’d never rock the boat.

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

ThompsonClaytonRadcliff breetoplay Golden_Girl Rozyn I read the claims in the forum thread; that’s why our article exists. I wasn’t responding to them. I was responding to yet another one of Golden Girl’s blanket anti-corporatism statements that wilt under examination. Sure, employers value honesty. They also value (and should value) a lot of other noble things that contradict with honesty. Unfortunately, transparency is not black and white.

jenks44
Guest
jenks44

“But nobody wanted the f2p thing. It basically said, yeah our game sucks so bad we won’t even ask you to pay for it. We knew our community was the best thing we had going for us and knew we were going to substantially lose that when the f2p floodgates were thrown open.”

RagnarTheDrunk
Guest
RagnarTheDrunk

So they were down to a paltry $1,274,150 per month? and just had to go F2P? Then took the rest of the industry with them, because we can’t just have profits, we must MAXIMIZE the profits!